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Venice: Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ Plays to Applause and Questions

The title, also starring Jake Gyllenhaal, left much of the press asking how much they really liked or understood the movie

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS Venice
Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

VENICE, Italy — Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals,” one of the most awaited titles at this year’s Venice Film Festival, drew a smattering of applause at its first press screening Friday morning.

That was a much more positive reaction than reaped by most titles that bow on the Lido, but not as warm a response as the one “La La Land” received Wednesday. Damien Chazelle’s Venice opener is quickly emerging as the most generally liked of the big titles unspooling at this year’s fest.

“Nocturnal Animals” — Ford’s much-anticipated follow-up to “A Single Man,” which won Colin Firth an Academy Award nomination — stars Amy Adams as Susan, a gallery curator living in the lap of luxury but whose marriage and finances are both on the rocks.

At the beginning of the film, she receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, Edward, whom she dumped nearly 20 years earlier when he was a penniless aspiring writer and who asks for her opinion on the novel.

As she reads the book, Susan recalls her first marriage and its breakdown, and feels a rekindling of her feelings for her ex. The novel proves a devastating tale of violence and revenge about a man who is attacked — along with his wife and daughter — on a family vacation on a lonely stretch of road in Texas.

“The film is fascinating. But I need to think about it more,” said journalist Elvira Munoz, adding that she was very impressed by Adams’s performance.

“One concern is [if] people are approaching ‘Nocturnal Animals’ as they approached ‘A Single Man,’ as a film by a fashion designer named Tom Ford as opposed to a film,” said Variety critic Jay Weissberg.